Some commenters have asked me to express a position on the war in Gaza.
My position is this: if there’s an archetype of a “just war”, this is damn close to it. The Israelis are responding to a clear, present, and lethal danger to the mass of their citizenry – rockets fired indiscriminately at their civilian population. Hamas’s statements and behavior (including more firing of rockets at civilians during humanitarian truces) give Israel every reason to believe that no means short of a war to destroy Hamas can end the threat. Israel’s tactics are appropriate to the objective of the war – there is no pattern of intentional killing of civilians.
The behavior of Hamas has been as vile as we might expect, hiding command bunkers under hospitals and siting mortars in residences and schools. Under the Geneva Convention and the customary laws of war, civilian casualties from Israeli fire missions to neutralize these sites are war crimes, all right, but they are war crimes by Hamas and not by Israel. Indeed, under the customary law of war the Israelis have behaved with commendable restraint.
The behavior of the international press has also been as vile as we might expect, in general uncritically retailing the Hamas propaganda line. The U.N. has, unusually, failed to descend to quite as wretched a depth, probably because Israel has the tacit backing of most of the Arab countries and Fatah.
I wish the Israelis all good fortune in smashing Hamas utterly. The world will be improved by it, both because the destruction of any violent Islamic fundamentalist group is a service to peace and for the message it will send to fundamentalists less violent. The lesson Islam needs in order to learn moderation is simple: to wage jihad against the West is to be defeated and to die. Let us hope it is learned before they get nuclear weapons and the stakes become genocidal.